"Film" may be the prominent word in its title but the Branchage Film Festival is as much of a music event as proven by the recent fun, diverse, four day annual event on the UK Channel Island of Jersey. Only in its third year, with New Jersey's WFMU broadcasting live from "old" Jersey for the past two (Resonance FM did the premiere festival), Branchage 2010 (Sept 23-26) not only featured films, many whose subject matter is music (including Gainsbrough, Out On His Own: Gilbert O'Sullivan, & The Doors documentary When You're Strange), but it also featured artists playing as opening acts for numerous of its films. Additionally musicians provided select films with exciting new live soundtrack accompaniment. The live soundtracked films included Tatsuo Sato's Japanese anime Cat Soup with Japanese psych-metal group Bo Ningen replacing the original score of this gory 2001 animation, Austrian director Nicolaus Geyrhalter's wordless documentary on modern day food production Our Daily Bread with improvised soundtrack by French beatboxer/multi-instrumentalist Pevin Kinel, classic Russian animation shorts by Yuri Norstein with live guitar music by Euros Childs & Richard James (founders of Welsh band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci), and the already brilliant 1925 film The Battleship Potemkin which was elevated into a whole new life with an ever engaging soundtrack by French electronic duo Zombie Zombie. (image below)
To add to its perfection Potemkin (video at top of this blog), which fittingly was the festival's closing event, was screened in the ultimate setting - on a big screen set up on the deck of the Duke Of Normandy tugboat, anchored midway out in the St. Helier Harbour with Zombie Zombie performing on the boat with large speakers directed back at the dock where both film and music fans had gathered for the 930pm free screening. Meanwhile both Bo Ningen and Euros Childs & Richard James did their live animated film accompaniments in two different old churches in the quaint Jersey town of St. Helier; All Saints Church and the Town Church respectively. And while Zombie Zombie had performed their Battleship Potemkin soundtrack on a couple of previous occasions the other live soundtracks were all new commissioned pieces. In a brief interview with the members of London based Japanese psych band Bo Ningen (who played an atypically mellower set) they told me that they had never played it live before but that they had practiced to the anime on three occasions leading up to the festival. Like Pevin Kinel's live soundtrack theirs too was improvised with the musicians constantly looking up at the screen as they played (video excerpt below). The Branchage Film Festival, which is rapidly growing in recognition in its relatively short three years, has been focusing on music since its inception. Last year's inspiring dramatic soundtrack by British Sea Power to Man of Aran in a sold-out screening in the St Helier Opera House was also released as a CD on Rough Trade last year. This year's live soundtracks at Branchage also featured UK experimental artist Scanner providing a music backdrop to Damer Waddington's "Magic Lantern Slide Show" - a slide presentation of retro images of old Jersey that drew a mixed crowd of all ages who seemed to be enjoying the music. Same went for Bo Ningen's often noisy soundtrack in All Saints Church (an operational Methodist Church that had to be cleared out of amps and speakers to make way for Sunday church services two mornings later) with Brit noise/psych group The Oscillation doing an opening set to a light-show. While next year's Branchage program has yet to be assembled odds are that festival director Xanthe Hamilton and lead programmer Philip Ilson will have many more live soundtracks in store for 2011. For info on Branchage Film Festival. To hear this year's WFMU remote broadcast from Branchage.